Q&A #118

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Helping students understand decimals

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From: Paulette Peltan

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2004013017:32:27
Subject: Third Grade (but used to be a Special Ed Teacher)

When I'm teaching place value and reading the standard form of numbers, I tell students that, when we are working with whole numbers, we should never use the word "and." We reserve that word for the decimal point. For instance, 102 would be one hundred two. 102.3 would be one hundred two AND three tenths. I have found that the easiest way to help students understand decimals is to talk about and show how we write about money. Again, we reserve the word "and" for the decimal point, so we have one dollar AND ten cents if we have $1.10. From there, we can talk about one dollar being made of one hundred cents, that the word CENT is a clue that we're talking about 100 of something or 100th of something. Vocabulary words include cent, century, and centimeter. We do a great deal of practice with writing money amounts and discussing what the tenth place and the hundredth place stand for (dimes and pennies). Students seem to be able to relate to this.

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